Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Valkenburgh on Daley Bi, North Grant Park

Monday night saw the first of four meetings held by the Chicago Park District to solicit ideas for the renovation of North Grant Park, which includes the Daley Bicentennial Plaza site into which the Daley administration is hell-bent on cramming an illegal building for the Chicago Children's Museum.

The scope of the community input was immediately sharply curtailed by rules laid down by Chicago Park District director of planning and development Gia Biagi:

1. The entire park must be destroyed because the underlying parking garage is having leakage problems and the only way to fix it is to remove every vestige of the current park. This is another example of how private/public partnerships designed to benefit the city in fact cede control of the public sector to private interests. Chicago has already lost control of its streets through the parking meter deal. Now a public amenity - a 30 acre park - has to be destroyed to appease the needs of the private owners of the garage underneath.
2. It must be assumed that the Children's Museum will be built. This despite fundraising for the new building, which is now estimate to cost upwards of $150,000,000, has basically ground to a halt. The bad economy, not inaccurately, is cited by museum officials, but fundraising has undoubtedly also been depressed by the fact that it will have to take place in an environment where corporations will find their contributions won't automatically buy them friends among the general public, but may, indeed, tarnish their reputation among those who oppose the museum - which in all independent polls includes a large majority of Chicago residents. A large number of enraged activists which will make sure such contributions are widely publicized.

One good move is the Park District's hiring of renowned landscape architects Michael Valkenburgh Associates to design the replacement park. From their presentation, it is clear that they get it. They understand, as Grant Park Advisory President Bob O'Neill does not, that parks that are more than just cramming in as much programs and buildings as possible. Unfortunately the video I offer her - shot in my patented combination of horrific camerawork and hacksaw editing - covers only the beginning of Valkenburgh's excellent presentation. (I need to get a bigger storage card - or a Canon Ti,) You can see a portfolio of their work here.

Valkenburgh's presentations can also be heard as the three remaining Park District community input sessions, which was worth attending:

  • Wednesday, May 26 at South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore Drive
  • Wednesday, June 9 at Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway Avenue
  • Thursday, June 10 at Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Avenue
It's interesting that when Valkenburgh, in his presentation, said, "We're thinking that North Grant Park wants to have some of it quieter areas that are more pastoral." the room burst into spontaneous applause. "Did somebody write that down, please?" Valkenburgh quipped in reaction. Let's hope they did.


Unknown said...

Thank you for the review, although it was totally one-sided. It is common knowledge that the park will need to be erased to repair the garage membrane below. Let’s do this the right way, not the typical Chicago way…

I believe that the park and the garage function in unison (without the garage, the park would likely not be there). This is not a case of appeasing the private owners of the garage underneath, this work is inevitable and expected. We will be having this conversation again in 40 years when the new membrane needs replacement (and I hope not).

This is an OPPORTUNITY to improve this section of Grant Park and make it work with Millennium Park. Most if not all residents of the “Randolph Cliffs” will oppose any changes; there is a strong N.I.M.B.Y. attitude there with the majority elderly population. But let’s face it; Daley Bi is outdated, inefficient and dangerous. Look at the beautiful new park in Lakeshore East. Chicago could benefit from the Daley Bi being modernized. Should a legally built underground Children’s Museum be there??? why not?

Lynn Becker said...

Sorry but you're wrong. Parks need time to grow. The best have hundred year old trees. Now they're supposed to disposables? Destroyed every thirty years ago to fix the garages underneath?

The NIMBY argument is more museum propaganda. Every city-wide poll by the Tribune and others has show overwhelming opposition to the museum in the park. The poll the museum itself ran, for which I was called, must have had the same results as they've never published them.

What it IS about is the selling of the city - of assets that should be in the public trust - to private developers for the benefit of private interests.

So, yes, let's do things the right way, which means a real park, and not a park stuffed into what's left over after a private museum with minimal public support builds an underground cavern with an obtrusive surface presence.

Unknown said...

We agree to disagree... but please do not reinforce your opinion with biased and uninformed polls. Most people are well aware that you can not count on the accuracy of a poll, or on the opinion of the “regular Joe” in Chicago. This is a matter that requires bravery (to try something new) and vision. To dismiss the NIMBY attitude there is in itself propaganda; it is a very strong force among the residents of the high-rises along Randolph and anyone following this debate realizes that.

I agree that parks need to grow, 100 years is just a start! But parks built on parking garages have a different useful life and have the opportunity to “upgrade” every 40-50 years. That’s the situation we are going to have to face with Grant Park, unless you know of an everlasting waterproof membrane?

Lynn Becker said...

Oh right, polls don't matter because none of them - not even the museum's own biased survey - gave them the results the museum desired. (You can be sure if the results had gone the museum's way, polls would suddenly matter big time.) And if we deny any method of measuring opinion is valid, then opposition becomes invisible. How convenient.

Oh, and if the "regular joe"'s also don't think handing over a public park to a private museum is a good idea, their opinion doesn't matter either. Closet NIMBY's one and all. Child haters, too. Wow, it's just like the old Soviet Union. You just airbrush all your opponents out of existence.

So who can be trusted? The dictator. Of course.

Bravery? How about stupidity? Taken solely on their merits, all arguments for the museum in the park collapses into a viscous goo. No other childrens museum has thought it a good idea to cram kids into an underground bunker, and have them board and exit buses in the dark, gas fume filled cavern of lower Randolph.

There is no bravery here; no vision. Only raw political muscle.

Unknown said...

I am not advocating for the CCM or for doing nothing and letting the parking structure deteriorate.
Regardless of the former "polls" and the rigid attitude of the local residents, how should Chicago deal with this?

I am attempting to open a discussion on the future of Daley Bi and how to deal with the parking garage issue.

Lynn Becker said...

Unfortunately, the issue is completely tied up with the Children's Museum.

How does Valkenburgh design around what will be either an ugly intrusion, or more likely, a vacuum, an enormous question mark.

The Park District says this project has to be done within the next five years. So far, the museum has raised on average, about $1 million a year towards a $125-150 million project. Does the mayor at some point admit it's just not going to happen? Throw in huge amounts of TIF funds to subsidize the construction? Force the landscape architects to leave spaces in their designs for a facility that will probably never get built.

A larger issue, judging from the presentation, is that the North Grant Park planning seems to be taking place in isolation, rather than in looking of it in the context of a comprehensive plan for the lakefront.

If you want to talk about a bridge to nowhere, think about Lake Shore Drive. One of the Valkenburgh architects admitted to being daunted by the massive expanse of traffic lanes between North Grant Park and lake. It's an enormous barrier, yet the problem doesn't even seem part of a discussion.

And if you cross LSD, what do you find? A real "nowhere" that is little more than a massive parking lot for boats. Shouldn't the downtown lakefront be more balanced in its amenities, in line with the proposed harbors in the Burnham Plan. My fear is I'm not even seeing these questions addressed.

Jack, w/ apprehension on reopening the debate, said...


What I always fail to see in your political comments is anything recognizing the reality of city government, the way it has been, the way it is, and the way it always will be. Daley is either a tool for the corporate/Pritzker interests (CCM) or a megalomaniac hell bent at expanding park space for the 'people' at the expense of poor pilot enthusiasts (Meigs).

Obviously, the jury is still out on the 'legality' of Ron Krueck's CCM, but the facts are that it *increases* park space rather then eliminates it and it will bring thousands more visitors to enjoy Grant Park (hence the shrill NIMBY opposition). That's it. Those are the facts.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Becker: How did you miss the critical point that the park district "sold" the garages because of the huge cost of repairing the structures.
The repairs are not something that is being done to "appease" anyone. It's an engineering requirement for safety.

The Park District would not have been able to raise the parking fees sufficiently to borrow against the revenue; a private company can.

Lynn Becker said...

And this is how cities pawn their futures for "easy money" and hack politicians pervert democracy to stay in power.

You want a liveable city with affordable parking? You might even vote to keep it that way? OK, we'll sell off the garages. We'll sell off the streets. And give the buyer the right to double, triple, quadruple parking rates and more. The politician claims credit for the quick influx of big cash, and deflects the blame as the public's pockets are picked - it's a private company raising the rates, not us.

Sell the assets for much less than they're worth, let distant private interests suck the wealth of the city. 99 year leases with a big payoff for one generation, an empty sack for the next four.

Yeah, a great plan. Just not for us.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure every Democratic politician in the state -starting with the Gov and Mayor - would like to know how to raise taxes to subsidize things like "affordable" parking rates. They can't even do it for health or education.

$50mil+ is to be spent to fix the garage or it will have to be closed. Right now it is the private company that will pay that fee - not the taxpayer. Ditto for the other garages in due time. Current construction materials only last about 50 years.

And aren't most of the streets in the Loop already in private ownership!

Tom Tresser said...

The citizens attending these meetings were treated to more Chicago official arrogance and "done deal" attitude. Despite the organizing efforts of Protect Our Parks and Save Grant Park, the rubber stamp Planning Commission (after a mockery of a "public" hearing) and the rubber stamp City Council approved the Children's Museum land grab. The destruction of public parks and privatization of public assets must stop. FIGHT BACK.

Tom Tresser
Green Party candidate for Cook County Board President